Historical Gold Finds and Discoveries

Australia was, and is, home to some of the most amazing discoveries of gold the world has seen. This was initially due to the fact that large amounts of gold were found on the surface, out cropping and as nuggets. Some finds changed the nation entirely, such as Ballarat and Bathurst. However the most notable discoveries (or at least the most exciting) were gold nuggets.

A single small-to-medium sized gold nugget could turn a bedraggled and poor low classed miner into a rich man. Even bigger nuggets could turn lucky diggers into instantly wealthy celebrities.

Nugget discoveries could also turn small under-worked fields or empty farmland into thriving tent villages with thousands of miners looking to locate the next ‘big one’. Some of these ‘under-worked fields’ are still towns today solely due to these quite rare natural formations.

Many of the largest gold nuggets ever formed on Earth were found in Australia. In fact, 8 out of the top 10 were found Down Under. Some of the most famous Aussie nuggets are:

The Welcome

The Welcome nugget was by far the largest nugget ever unearthed when it was discovered. It was found on the 15th of June 1858 by a team of approximately 20 miners at Bakery Hill, Ballarat. It was dug out of the roof of a tunnel at a depth of 55 metres (around 180 feet). The Welcome nugget weighed 2,218 troy ounces (69.98 kilograms). It was melted down a little over a year later in 1859.

Despite its size, The Welcome’s fame was short lived. An even bigger nugget was found ten years later.

Welcome Stranger

On the 5th of February 1869, a nugget was found in a small town named Moliagul. A miner named John Deason was digging at Bulldog Gully when he first thought he had struck a large stone just under the surface. However after digging only 3 cm he was delighted to see the yellow twinkle of gold. With the help of his companion Richard Oates, Deason was able to free the monster from the dirt and the roots of an Aussie stringy-bark tree. This discovery was the world’s largest ever recorded gold nugget.

There are some differing reports on the exact weight of the Welcome Stranger nugget, but the most well known ounce rating was 2,284 troy ounces (71.01 kilograms). It measured 60 by 30 centimetres and couldn’t be weighed in the district as there weren’t scales large enough.

At today’s gold exchange rate, the Welcome Stranger would have been worth over $2,000,000. A stone monument marks where it was found.

Heron Nugget

In 1855 at the Mount Alexander goldfield, a group of inexperienced miners where sent to a claim in Golden Gully that was believed to be empty. Such spots were called ‘duffer claims’ and were thought to be useless. However, in this case, the nasty trick very swiftly backfired. On only their second day of digging, the miners unearthed a 1008 ounce gold nugget which would change their lives forever. The nugget was named after a well liked gold commissioner called Mr Heron.

The Heron Nugget was the seventh largest nugget in the world when discovered.

The Hand of Faith

The Hand of Faith was found on the 26th of September 1980 and is the largest known nugget found anywhere in the world by a metal detector in the modern age. It and weighs 875 troy ounces (27.21 kilograms) making it also the largest still in existence. As noted above, much larger nuggets were discovered in the 1850’s but these were melted down by their owners/finders to decrease the chances of theft and to change the gold into a form easily sold.

The Hand of Faith was found in behind the State School in Kingower Victoria by a hobbyist fossicker named Kevin Hillier. The nugget was found in the vertical position only 6 inches below the surface. It measures 47 by 20 centimetres and is still on display at the Los Vegas Casino (named The Golden Nugget) that bought it for US$1,000,000.

Interestingly enough, the school where it was found is only approximately 30 miles from where the Welcome Stranger nugget was found in 1869.

The Holtermann ‘Nugget’

While the the largest nugget of gold ever found is the ‘Welcome Stranger’ nugget, it wasn’t the largest mass of gold ever found. The Holtermann ‘nugget’ is not technically a nugget, it was cut from a incredibly rich vein under Hawkins Hill, Hill End New South Wales in 1872. The specimen was interlaced with quartz and weighed a whopping 286 kilos. It was estimated that 3,000 ounces of gold were extracted when the giant was crushed. Only the top of the specimen remains, cut off by Holtermann as a souvenir.

Amazingly this wasn’t the only gigantic piece of gold cut from Hill End’s mine. An even larger specimen was drilled from the same vein. This second monster was broken up below ground however as there seemed no point struggling with it up to the surface only to have it crushed . Its estimated weight around 318 kilos and it yeiled approximately 5,000 ounces of gold.

Gold has been a major part of Australia’s development and continues to have huge effects on the nation/continent. Its possible even larger nuggets and gold finds still exist, although as years and technology progress it is not very likely.

Nevertheless, gold has shaped this nation into what it is today.

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